Strikeforce Signs Josh Barnett: Is It Worth the Risk?

Jason Schielke@jasonschielkeCorrespondent ISeptember 15, 2010

It was announced Monday morning that Strikeforce had added former UFC champion Josh Barnett to their very talent-weak Heavyweight division. 

For those of you new to the sport, or have horrible short-term memories, this is the same Josh Barnett that has tested positive for anabolic steroids three times.

Yes, three times.

The first time happened in the early 2000's before the Nevada State Athletic Commission had regulations regarding how to handle suspensions due to P.E.D. use.  So thanks to the still-forming rules regarding MMA, Barnett got a free pass.

The second instance happened after his fight against then Heavyweight champion Randy Couture at UFC 36 in 2002.  Barnett won the match via second round TKO,  but was stripped of his title after he tested positive, again, for steroids.  He ended up leaving the company to go compete in Japan.

After competing in the land of the rising sun for five years, Barnett returned to America to take on Pedro Rizzo in the first event of the now defunct Affliction MMA promotion.  After defeating Rizzo, he went on to defeat Gilbert Yvel in the promotion’s second event to set up a very anticipated match-up with Fedor Emelianenko.

That match, however, never took place.

In a random pre-fight drug screening, Barnett tested positive for the third time for steroids and had his license suspended.  After scrambling to find a suitable replacement for Barnett to no avail, Affliction canceled what would have been their third event, ceased operations, and went back to focusing on their clothing line.

So what did Barnett do after that?  He ran back to competing oversees of course.

After over a year long lay off, Barnett returned to action at Dream in Japan, defeating Siala-Mou Siliga by kimura and Geronimo dos Santos in Australia via “many punches” at Impact FC.

Now it appears that Barnett has cleaned up, went through the 12-steps, and is ready to make his return to the States.  According to many published reports, Strikeforce has enough confidence in Barnett to lay off the juice to sign him to a multi-fight contract earlier this week.  At the time of this rant, the details of the contract had not been released by either side.

At this point of time, there appears to be two questions that need to be answered:  Why would Strikeforce make such a risky move and what does Barnett have left to offer the sport?

To answer the last question, it has been quite a while since Barnett has fought a relevant fighter in the MMA world.  To be more exact, it’s been since New Year’s Eve of 2006 when he fought the bigger of the two Nogueira brothers at Pride Shockwave—a fight he lost in case you missed it. 

Since then, he has had dominating performances against what some would call” B levels fighters” including Hidehiko Yoshida, Jeff Monson, and the fighters mentioned earlier.

Seeing that it’s been well over four years since Barnett has faced top level competition, does “The Babyfaced Assassin” have what it takes to compete at an “A level fighter?”  I guess we won’t know until we see him in the cage against the likes of Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, Werdum, and Fedor.

Now to the first question. 

The answer to this one is simple—Strikeforce needs depth in there Heavyweight division.  Their champion, Alistair Overeem, seems more interested in K-1 and the phat paydays that come with that than defending his Strikeforce title.  After the almighty Uber-one, you have Werdum, Silva, Fedor, and a handful of “gatekeepers.”

Simply put, Strikeforce needs a top-tier fighter to help fill their feeble Heavyweight roster. 

It seems that Strikeforce doesn’t care about what has happened in the past and is willing to do whatever they can to help bring competition to the shallowness that is their Heavyweight division. 

Can Barnett be this fighter, if he can lay off the juice,  that can bring some much needed name power and make the public believe that Strikeforce’s Heavyweight division is relevant? 

Only time will tell.

Play on Playa.


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Originally posted at Sprawl N Brawl MMA.

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